“I think where the dialogue really happens is in a Black Men Run group chat that we have. Just think about what we’re all feeling when that situation happens with George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery. It really gets to a point where we don’t feel OK. We’re not alright. We try to support each other as best as we can but the reality is our job as Black Men Run is to show our community what we can do as a unit through running and to be role models. When I joined and we started doing the hood runs, just seeing the power of people in those communities seeing us as a unit and sticking together, I can’t even put a value on that. It’s so grand. That’s where a lot of hope lies – in seeing Black men like ourselves stepping out there and choosing to stick together in a positive way. In Black Men Run, we have doctors, principals, lawyers, chiropractors, educators and the list goes on. It’s just a good place where not only are we connecting through running but we stay connected outside of that and work on various things.
It wasn’t a big group when they started in New York City. They stuck with it. That to me and where we’re at now is more about how they built that. Now, how do I take what they built and figure out what I can build through the things I have talent in. They were really pivotal in being an example to me and the power of sticking together with something that has meaning.
One thing I’m learning is: Everything I want to do has to have a purpose. I try to think of that purpose before I do it. I’m starting to speak up with a purpose. I want people to be more vulnerable. I want people to share their stories. I want them to let people know how they’re really feeling. I think for too long and in my workplace with certain friends that I have who are white, I’ve held back on having real conversations with them for a real long time. Do you know who that’s affecting the most? Me. Because I’m holding that inside. I can’t reach my full potential until I let all of this out. My biggest message to people is to encourage them to use their voice. We all have a story. Life is difficult. Whether you’re dealing with racism or some other trauma that maybe you’ve been dealing with since you were a kid, these stories need to be let out. I’d rather know the real you than the person you perceive to be. To me, that’s when we can brick by brick lay the foundation for a better future for our youth. They need to know some of the truth."
Jason Fulford is a Gowanus, Brooklyn native. He is the coordinator of community programs for Community Roots Charter School. When he's not working, he's likely running as a member of Black Men Run and The Running Edge. He is also known as the cousin of Eric Garner, who died on July 17, 2014 when a New York City police officer tackled him and put him into a fatal chokehold. Garner's dying words – "I can't breathe" – helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement to protest racial injustice in America. Five years after Garner's death, Jason partnered with Overthrow NYC to host the Run for Justice in 2019. This year, the run is back and will be held on July 18. Hear about Jason's work as an activist, how running has been his therapy, his role as a father and educator during this important movement, his relationship with Eric Garner and what his hope is for the future.